Just starting out

Some version of the Latin Kings' bible was brought to Bethlehem in 2002.

According to federal court documents released after Wednesday's raids, the bible turned up about a year after Joseph Wallenberg, a ranking Latin King in Chicago, was sent to Pennsylvania to organize chapters in Bethlehem and Philadelphia.

In 2002, court records state, Luis Colon was chosen to lead the Bethlehem chapter. Colon, 26, of Allentown, is one of 12 alleged members of the Kings indicted Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, drug and weapons charges. Eight years earlier, Wallenberg provided Colon with the "written manifesto containing the rules" of the national group, court documents state.

The manifesto is a road map to decades of gang history. Some gang websites suggest the Latin Kings' roots date to the 1940s in Chicago. At first, the gang was a way for Spanish-speaking residents to band together to protect themselves and their property. By the 1970s, some of its members had turned to crime, particularly drugs, and their activities had sparked violence.

In the 1980s, after a lengthy power struggle with members of the Chicago faction, Latin Kings chapters formed in New York and Connecticut.

Many regional factions of the Kings operate independently and have their own constitutions, according to a 2009 study commissioned by the FBI, National Drug Intelligence Center, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Latin Kings have regional chapters across the nation, with an estimated 20,000 members in Chicago alone and another 50,000 across the country, the report states. The Kings also have chapters in Latin America and Europe.

What sets the Kings apart from other gangs is that they consider themselves to be a community-based organization, the report states.

The Kings often emphasize prayer, pride and respect, according to Know Gangs, a group that educates law enforcement and the public about gangs. They demand obedience and, law enforcement experts say they use beatings, threats and other methods of intimidation to achieve it. Members of the Bethlehem Sun Tribe, for example, have issued orders to "beat-down on sight" and "terminate on sight" members who have broken rules, according to the federal indictments.

The Kings make their money through drug sales, police say, though their rules prohibit members from using drugs harder than marijuana.

Obtaining a copy of the gang's rules is an unusual find, said Jared Lewis, founder of Know Gangs and a former Modesto, Calif., police officer. Some copies of the rules have been seized by police, such as in 2005 when the manifesto was confiscated during the arrest of 22 alleged gang members in New York.

Lewis said the gang is known for its sophisticated organization and keeping meticulous notes from meetings and internal court proceedings.

While portions of the Latin Kings' manifesto speak of spirituality, Latino pride and the importance of education, other sections detail beatings and order members to share drug sale profits, Lewis said.

"There's a lot of warm and fuzzy stuff in there, but then you'll see rules about beatings and take-out orders," Lewis said. "While they may be trying to promote a positive image, their actions speak differently."

Members who break the rules by failing to share drug sales or not respecting higher ranking members may be brought before a "court," which doles out penalties. Sometimes members are fined for their indiscretions. Other times they can be reprimanded, beaten or killed.

In the indictments released Wednesday, examples of the punishments are detailed:

On Nov. 25, 2007, the indictment states, Sun Tribe leaders held a meeting in which they decided to implement beatings as "punishments" for members who violated the manifesto.

Not even Colon, who as "King Respect" was the leader of the Bethlehem Sun Tribe, was immune to the rules, authorities say. At one meeting, at least six other men gave Colon and his top lieutenant, Jesse "King Pride" Zayas, 27, of Bethlehem, 90-second beatings for breaking some aspect of the code, the indictment states.

An unidentified member got a three-minute beating in 2007 for taking "$600 from the tribe's shared financial resources without permission," the indictment states.